Organization:365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children
Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.
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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.
Why Are Heavy Stars So Gassy?
Have you ever woken up before dawn on a cold, foggy morning? The fog normally disappears shortly after sunrise, as heat and light from the Sun burns it away. If our Sun were hotter and brighter, what do you think would happen? It would burn away the fog even quicker.
OK, you got me. The Sun doesn’t really “burn” the fog, but it does heat it and make it dissipate. First the tiny, tiny water droplets in the fog become water vapor, which is transparent. After a few hours that same water vapor becomes clouds high in the sky and far away from where it all started outside your window.
Newborn stars are often surrounded by disks of gas and dust – a kind of “cosmic fog”. Astronomers expected that, like fog on Earth, these disks would disappear faster around hotter, brighter stars. They expected that the hot stars would “burn” away the cosmic fog like the Sun does here on Earth.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Astronomers using the ALMA radiotelescope array in Chile’s Atacama desert have been studying the disks around a group of 24 young stars. By “young” I mean 5 to 10 million years old. Just a baby!
They found large amounts of gas around three of the stars. Strangely enough, these disks surround the bulkiest stars – each one twice as massive as our Sun.
These stars are also much hotter and brighter than the Sun. The smaller, fainter and cooler stars have dusty disks, but no gas. This is the opposite of what we expected.
It’s unclear where the gas comes from. It could be that the heavy stars haven’t been able to blow away the gas as well as we expected. Or maybe comets are supplying new gas. We know comets sometimes carry the exact type of gas found in the disks.
Either way, the new mystery might have actually shed light on another unresolved area of space science – the birth of giant gas planets. If the disks around massive stars can contain such enormous amounts of gas for millions of years, there’s more time for gas planets (like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus) to form.
Hey, Here’s A Cool Fact:
Both clouds and rain used to be called meteors. It comes from the Greek meteoros, which simply means “high in the sky” and which gives us the word “meteorology”, the science of weather & clouds.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that rocks falling from the sky, meteors as we know them nowadays, were seen as a cosmic phenomenon at all!
Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astrosphere New Media. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrate more discoveries and stories from the universe. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!